Lead title: Camille Sullivan as Saffron
The Birdwatcher is the story of Saffron, a single mother of two, who after being diagnosed with cancer, embarks on a journey to re-connect with her estranged birth mother in the hopes of finding family for her children.
Director: Siobhan Devine
Executive Producer: Alexandra Raffe, Carol Whiteman
Producer: Siobhan Devine, Ines Eisses, Roslyn Muir, Alexandra Raffe
Writer: Roslyn Muir
About the writer, director and producers:
Siobhan Devine is a Vancouver based filmmaker and television director. She has directed episodes on shows including the Netflix Original Series Some Assembly Required, Mr. Young for YTV & Disney XD, Stanley Dynamic for YTV as well as the adult primetime sitcom Package Deal for which she won a 2015 Leo Award for Best Direction.
Roslyn Muir is an award winning screenwriter, story editor and producer. The Birdwatcher is her first feature film. She has several produced made-for-TV movies, all thrillers, which have been distributed in Canada, US and across Europe.
Alexandra Raffe has been producing for 30 years. Her feature films (most notably I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing, Zero Patience and I Love a Man in Uniform) have collectively won 11 Canadian Genie Awards. Alex moved into television 15 years ago and is Vice-President of Production at Thunderbird Films.
Ines Eisses is a Vancouver producer and The Birdwatcher is her second feature. In 2012, she co-produced Cinemanovels, a feature film with acclaimed director Terry Miles and starring Jennifer Beals and Lauren Lee Smith. It premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and the film subsequently received an Honorable Mention for Best BC Film at the 2013 Vancouver International Film Festival.
Carol Whiteman is a two-time Governor General’s Award-nominee and multiple award-winner for promoting women’s equality and advancing talent in Canada’s screen industry, Carol is best known as co-creator and producer of the internationally respected Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) program.
Key cast: Camille Sullivan, Gabrielle Rose, Matreya Fedor, Jakob Davies, and Garwin Sanford
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Sales agent, buyers, distributors
Funders: Telefilm Canada, Women in the Director’s Chair Feature Film Award, Crowdfunding, Private Investment
Made in association with: Produced by Imperative Pictures Inc.
Release date: December 2015
Where can I watch it at Dances With Films? June 9, 9:30pm, at TCL Chinese Theatres
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Writer Roslyn Muir lost a sister to cancer and wrote The Birdwatcher in a way as a way to work through some of her emotions. She sent the script to director Siobhan Devine as the two had just made a short film called OMG together. This script just happened to cross Siobhan’s desk shortly after she had heard that a good friend had passed away after battling for years against cancer.
Siobhan explains, “It was meant to be – the right script at the right time came to my attention and I just had to make The Birdwatcher.”
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
You should come and this film because the film explores many areas of family life both the highs and the lows in a realistic way. It tackles the fact that having a diagnosis of cancer doesn’t mean life stops it means a different life begins.
The film also depicts a version of a reunion between a child and their birth mother that will move you to tears. The Birdwatcher features stellar performances by talented Canadian actors ranging in age from 11 to 60 years.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Loss is universal as is the mother/daughter relationship in its many forms.
The Birdwatcher is a film about 3 generations of women, each generation bound by their own needs and wants. Sandwiched between the cantankerous birth mother and recalcitrant teenager is Saffron who is both a mother and a daughter.
Saffron is a woman who lives entirely for those around her until she is faced with her own mortality which pitches her forward on a quest that becomes deeply personal.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
It took about a year to get the script to production ready and then about a year to raise the money to make it. Knowing we were going to be making a very low budget film we knew that the success of the film would rest on the performances.
We only had 14 days to shoot the film and as we were shooting it became clear that we were falling behind by about a page a day. After the first week, a decision had to be made between speeding up the shooting and thereby losing some of the quality of performances and cinematography or cutting some of the script.
We opted to cut an entire subplot. It was only because we had such a clear idea of what the film was about that we were able to do this successfully. Because of our limited time we had to be very disciplined while shooting - we shot a very low ratio of something like 4:1. Very little of what we shot did not make it into the movie.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
We’ve had a very strong emotional reaction from the film. Most people have been touched by loss, by cancer and they can relate to the themes. We had sold out houses for our world premiere at the Whistler Film Festival and our Vancouver screening at VIWIFF.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
A lot of people describe the film as a film about cancer before they see it but afterwards the feedback is always about family, loss and hope. The title of the film always alluded us as we tried to find a title that better described the film. However it was an audience member who explained to us that The Birdwatcher is a perfect title because in the film the birdwatcher, Birdy, becomes like a bird as she is watched by her daughter.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We are trying to reach our audience. This film speaks to lots of people but mostly we want to reach out to women over 35, men who have experienced loss and actors who want to see a film that succeeds because of strong performances.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
1) We would love to have a sales agent and a US distributor come onboard and help us get this film out to its intended audience.
2) We also need film festival directors to come to the film and see how well this film plays in a theatre and how strong the reaction is from the audience.
3) Journalist who are interested in women filmmakers – not only is this film primarily about women but also many of the key creative crew are women – director, writer, producers, editor, casting, composer & production designer.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
Honestly, we know the film has worked when it moves people to stillness and/or tears. This film is about loss and love and hope – we would like the film to offer the audience the same catharsis and emotional journey that we as filmmakers went through in order to make the film.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
1) What would you do if you were about to lose everything?
2) How would you react if your deepest secrets came to light?
Would you like to add anything else?
Almost everyone who worked on the film had either lost someone to cancer or knew of someone who had suffered a loss and I think the film reflects the honor everyone felt working in their shadows.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Siobhan and Roslyn are working on a two new projects:
1) High As A Kite is a feature film about a couple of heroin addicts from skid row who win a plot of land in Alberta.
2) Gravedigger is a supernatural procedural one hour TV Series.
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela